Heat is on for wildflower establishment

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Soil temperatures are warming up quickly and now is the ideal time to get annual wildflower seed mixtures in the ground for this season, advises Syngenta Environmental Initiatives manager, Belinda Bailey.

She advocated that once some oilseed rape crops are seen well into flower, it’s a good indicator that soil temperatures are suitable for sowing wildflower annuals. “You need workable soil to create a fine seedbed, and the small seeds like to get up and away in good growing conditions,” she added

Belinda pointed out that the fast growing Syngenta Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower mix has proven especially valuable for bees and other pollinators when planted near to oilseed rape fields, as it provided an important continuity of essential pollen and nectar when the OSR had finished.

Some stocks of the purpose designed Operation Pollinator seed mix are still available from specialist seed suppliers, Kings, with at a Syngenta special offer of £35 per pack for sowing up to a hectare.

Hampshire farmer, Simon Butler, has found annual wildflowers have proven straightforward to establish and consistently reliable in the matrix ecological habitats created around the 550-hectares based at Huntley Park Farm near Alton.

“With the annual wildflowers we find it is important to wait in the spring to ensure soils are sufficiently warm to encourage germination and establishment,” he advised.

Simon highlighted that creating a reasonably fine seedbed can help the wildflowers to establish quickly, and reiterated the importance of just sowing the seed on the surface. Rolling in the seed can help conserve moisture if conditions are dry, but always with an eye on the weather – since heavy rain can cause the farm’s greensand soils to slump, which would be detrimental.

“We have seen that it is possible to get two years out of the annual wildflowers from the natural regeneration of the mix,” suggested Simon, “but it does tend to grow back with more of the dominant species and you lose some of the diversity. We would prefer to re-sow each year with a more floristically enhanced mixture to get the colour and interest, and the full benefit for the insects.”

Belinda Bailey also highlighted that growers can start now with seedbed preparations for establishing a Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix, which would typically be sown in May or early June.

The Operation Pollinator seed mix, also available from Kings with  a limited Special Offer of £50 per hectare pack, includes species selected to provide end-of-season flowers for pollen and nectar, followed by a good supply of seeds as an overwinter feed source for game and farmland birds.

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